what I learned about blogging in 2009

Today is my last day off before returning to work in a new role. The sad thing is, I'm actually looking forward to going back... Holiday has been fantastic, and I'm not sure I'd choose to go back if I could send an automaton in my place and no one would ever find out, but nevertheless I'm not uncomfortable about the thought of being back in the saddle or scared about the new job (largely because I don't really know what it is), which is good. The thing I like is that I have a whole bunch of other stuff to look forward to; the stuff that makes this a vocation rather than just a career, like this blog and the CILIP involvement and writing stuff and generally all the extra-curricular activities that make things interesting. All of the extra-curricular stuff was new for 2009, and much of it came about directly or indirectly because of the world of the biblioblogosphere. I'm new to this world, having joined it in earnest only in July, so here's what a n00b learned about blogs and blogging in 2009:

  • Blogs can open up a world of opportunity: On the 5th of July last year, I was someone who'd sometimes read blogs and wondered idly whether I should start writing one - a professional one, rather than just a diary. I was also someone who’d just become a member of CILIP, but hadn’t done anything with that membership yet. On the 6th of July I presented a paper at the Career Development Group’s New Professionals Conference, which was great, but more significantly for my year, I saw Jo Alcock’s presentation on social networking etc at the same conference. This pushed me over the precipice into the world of blogs and blogging – her arguments as to its benefits, and her overview of its platforms, where enough to persuade me to actually do something with my idle curiosity.

    On the 7th of July, I had registered thewikiman.org and entered the world of blogging, and thereafter my whole professional life took on an extra dimension. It wasn’t that having a blog was particularly significant in itself, but rather that having an online presence as part of an active online community is almost guaranteed to create opportunities if you look for them. I’ve always thought luck = opportunity + preparation. By being online and being active you are preparing yourself to be in a position to make the most of opportunities that come up, and I feel very lucky about all the stuff that happened in the second half of 2010.

  • Blogs can make stuff happen: As I’ve said before, I sometimes find people to be glib about the ‘power’ of social networking and other web 2.0 stuff. This mild cynicism had already taken a knock when I saw how the new media could influence the situation in Iran, or Barack Obama’s election campaign. And then I saw it happen in miniature in my own little world, with the Library Routes Project.The Library Routes Project has now been viewed over 10,000 times, and contains the accounts of over 100 Information Professionals as to how and why they got where they are today. It is a thoroughly involving, surprising, entertaining and genuinely useful careers resource for current and aspiring Info Pros. It has had mentions in Gazzette, and Library and Information Update, and in various newsletters and publications, and on some influential websites. And it came about because I read Woodsiegirl’s blog on the subject of her roots, and Jennie Law’s comment about how maybe we should all post blogs about this, and then set up a wiki (which took all of 10 minutes to do, by the way) and then that was it, it was real, people were talking about it and contributing to it. As more and more bloggers blogged on it, so more and more people read about it and joined in. It was a little self-sustaining movement that simply wouldn’t have been practical outside the web 2.0 type environment.More significantly still, I then left a comment on Joel Kerry’s contribution to the Project, which led to him emailing me, which ultimately led to me joining Yorkshire & Humberside’s Career Development Group as a New Professionals Support Officer which is already proving really interesting, and which has led on to a whole bunch of other stuff. And literally none of that would have happened if I’d not been an online presence reading someone else’s blog... remarkable, really.  

  • There is a fantastic community of Information Professionals blogging: Info Pros LOVE blogging! There’s a whole lot of people doing it and what’s really great is that they are at ALL levels of the profession (see my If My RSS-feeds were 100 Information Professionals pic for a breakdown of the Info Pros I follow) so there is something relevant to everyone. And it’s a proper community – I’ve chatted to, learnt from, and collaborated with, loads of people I’ve never met in real life and so would never have had the opportunity to interact with were it not through their blogs. 

  • Info Pros are nice: One of the great things about working in this industry is that most people in it are really nice. This extends online as well – the chances are, if you have a query for an Info Pro blogger, they will be happy to hear from you and happy to give you an answer. This is very pleasing. Also, people are happy to help with anything – I asked about iphone insurance on Twitter and got near instant replies from a couple of Info Pros (among them Joeyanne again – cheers Jo!) that really helped me get sorted. 

  • You can get information from blogs that you can't get anywhere else: I very narcissistically envisaged entering the world of blogging to be mainly about setting up a blog of my own; in fact, that’s almost incidental to what I mainly get out of it, which is information from other people’s blogs. There is no quicker way to get important information about your profession than through subscriptions to a few great Info Pro’s blogs. Sometimes the sheer amount of important stuff I know I need to know after a quick glance through Stephen’s Lighthouse terrifies me – but not as much as the thought that six months ago I didn’t even know this information existed! And lots of really great and influential people give you fantastic insights into what they do and how they do it. Where else do you get that? 

  • Blogs enrich your professional life: Fundamentally, prior to the New Professionals Conference and joining CILIP, I was someone who cared a lot about his job and his institution, but didn’t really have his finger on the pulse of the wider profession. And it’s like the Matrix or something; there’s this whole world going on alongside the world you knew before, and you can get by without it, but once you know it’s there it reels you in and adds colour to everything. (I’ve not seen The Matrix since it came out, can’t remember that much about it, so that analogy may be fundamentally flawed towards the end...) It’s like the difference between this:

Can you see what it is yet?

 And this:

Saddle: model's own

Which is to say, a lot richer, a lot more detailed, and a lot more colourful . So,  hurray for that.

Here's to a 2010 which is just as significant and interesting! And thanks to all you Info Pro bloggers out there for providing so much good stuff to read...

- thewikiman